As you all probably know already, August 1st to 7th marks the World Breastfeeding Week. Needless to say, it is a very important topic and the more awareness we spread about it the better. So, we got in touch with Adhunika Prakash, the founder and CEO of Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers (BSIM) Facebook Group which works relentlessly to support breastfeeding moms in the country. She answered some really interesting questions about breastfeeding for us. BSFIM is a peer-to-peer support group for breastfeeding parents, their partners and families.
Adhunika herself has two kids – age 6 and age 3. She has done her MBA in Information Technology and was working in the IT industry before she began working on this social cause. In fact, last year Facebook selected her as one among five global leaders in its Community Leadership Program. Which means her endeavour will receive grants up to $1,000,000 from Facebook to fund this initiative. Read on!
Hi Adhunika. How and why did you choose to start BSIM?
When my older child was born in 2012 – we were in Cork, Ireland at that time – I had a lot of basic questions about how breastfeeding is supposed to work, but I didn’t have anyone to ask those simple questions to. When my son was 7 months old, I joined an Irish breastfeeding support group and realised what huge difference support of other breastfeeding parents can make to a breastfeeding journey.
A few months later, in June 2013, I founded the breastfeeding support group. At that time, it was targeted only towards mothers in Pune. As the number of mothers from the other parts of India increased, the name of the group was changed to become Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers.
What’s the concept behind it and how does it help young moms?
Our objective is to empower women by helping them to make informed decisions about breastfeeding. We provide support and information to the members of our community to enable them to make informed decisions about breastfeeding. Apart from making them believe in the ability of their body to make enough milk for their babies, we also empower them by educating them about how they don’t need to stop breastfeeding when they resume employment or provide a bottle of milk when they step out of their houses with a breastfed baby.
That sounds great. And how does the group actually work in terms of moderators, admins and answering queries?
We have a team of 40+ members that constitutes of peer counsellors, moderators and admins that support mothers 24 x 7 on our online platform. Admins and moderators carefully vet each profile to the best of their ability to ensure that we only allow those who wish to benefit from the work that we do. We have hashtagged information which has been indexed in the group so mothers can also search for the information themselves if they don’t wish to make a new post.
However, it is not only our team that answers the questions. Over time, members from the community start answering questions themselves once they understand where the resources are located and what answers to provide.
As you know 1st-7th August is breastfeeding week globally. What do you think the week means in a country like ours?
This week enables us to focus on how we can enable more women to breastfeed in India. We do have quite a few policies in place that do support women, but there are still some policies that need to be created to support breastfeeding women in India.
True! So, why do you feel breastfeeding needs a separate week to be celebrated and talked about globally?
Breastfeeding affects 100% of the population so ideally, this is something that should be worked on all through the year. Over the years, manufacturers of breast milk substitutes have insidiously provided inaccurate information about breastfeeding to those who should be promoting and protecting breastfeeding. Having a week allotted to this enables us to educate the masses about the importance and dynamics of breastfeeding. It also gives us an opportunity to mull over where we stand today and what we can do to change the lives of breastfeeding women over the world.
What initiatives do you feel should be taken by the Government and corporate sector to empower women/parents to support them in breastfeeding?
These are some of the areas in which we can do better to protect and promote breastfeeding in India.
- A policy which protects women that breastfeed in public
- A policy which ensures that women at workplaces have pumping rooms allotted to them
- A policy to ensure that formula is administered at hospitals only after consent is taken from the parents
- Policies to ensure that hospitals enable breastfeeding once the baby is born rather than resorting to breast milk substitutes when there are breastfeeding issues
How has BSIM grown as a group over these years? What are the future plans?
We started 6 years ago, after the first year, we had 300 members, and today, we have more than 100,000+ members. We are beginning to tap into the potential of what we can achieve as a community and how we can impact the breastfeeding landscape in India.
We wish to test some initiatives as we move forward to get a foothold on our financial sustainability. We plan to conduct some offline sessions in some cities for expectant women because the best time to learn about breastfeeding is when a woman is expecting. We will be starting with Mumbai, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad and then have these sessions in more cities. We are also planning to test some more initiatives during the course of this year.
We wish to amplify the voices of breastfeeding women in India and work on policies to support them on their breastfeeding journey.
We have heard about the FB fellowship. Can you tell us more about that?
The Facebook Community Leadership Program has been a huge learning opportunity for me. I am one amongst 5 Residents who was chosen from 6000+ applicants from the world. The Residents get up to 1 Million USD in funding. We are being provided with training and the opportunity to network with those who can enable us and support us as we try to scale-up our impact.
We hope our conversation with Adhunika has given you great insights about the cause of breastfeeding and how new parents need all the support they can get.
Featured Image Source: Time Magazine